Germany’s Bertelsmann Creates a ‘Content Alliance’ for Its Divisions

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As many publishers move to widen cross-format development, Bertelsmann forms a cooperative council of its managing directors, aiming at ‘cross-divisional offers for creative professionals.’

Bertelsmann’s Corporate Center in Gütersloh. Image: Bertelsmann

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘To Fully Exploit the Potential’
Today (January 29), Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe is announcing that on Friday (February 1), the company’s new “Content Alliance” will begin to coordinate the marketing and and presentation of its various content formats and divisions.

As journalists at Börsenblatt are stressing in their report, “The entrepreneurial and publishing autonomy of each respective business remains unaffected.”

And in its statement to the press, Bertelsmann seems to be referring to the sort of cross-media format and platform developments the publishing industry is encountering with increasing frequency in such areas as book-to-film and -television, audio production, and more. The new approach, Bertelsmann’s offices say, will generate “cross-divisional offers for creative professionals, as well as development and distribution of formats.”

Indeed, the corporation—which is the parent of Penguin Random House—offers several examples of existing intra-company developments symbolic of the concept behind the Content Alliance:

  • The Vox TV series Der Club der roten Bänder (The Red Band Society) is based on a book by the author Albert Espinosa, a book published in Germany by Verlagsgruppe Random House
  • The UFA/Fremantle production Munich is based on a novel by Robert Harris, also published by Verlagsgruppe Random House
  • Gruner + Jahr published a start-up magazine to accompany the season opener of the Vox show Die Höhle der Löwen (Shark Tank).
  • Recently, Gruner + Jahr and BMG announced their joint launch of a fan magazine about the musician Max Giesinger

In today’s statement, Rabe is announcing a leadership panel of managing directors who will guide the new cooperative effort.

Julia Jäkel, CEO of Gruner + Jahr, is to chair the panel. She is joined by:

  • Bernd Reichart (Media Group RTL Germany)
  • Nico Hofmann (UFA)
  • Stephan Schmitter (RTL Radio Germany)
  • Thomas Rathnow (Verlagsgruppe Random House)
  • Stephan Schäfer (Gruner + Jahr)
  • Hartwig Masuch and Dominique Kulling (BMG)

As Benedicte Page is reporting at The Bookseller, Bertelsmann’s announcement says that its Content Alliance is modeled on the “successful work done by the Ad Alliance, which since 2017 has pooled the expertise of strong marketers such as IP Deutschland and G+J eMS, and has been ‘very well received in the market.'”

Thomas Rabe

In a prepared comment, Rabe mentions competition “in the US with the technology platforms.” He’s quoted, saying, “Bertelsmann is a creative powerhouse and will be investing close to €6 billion [US$6.9 billion] in creative content worldwide this year.

“The Bertelsmann Content Alliance in Germany will pool our group’s content expertise in order to fully exploit the potential of our most important market. With content offerings across all media genres and new marketing opportunities, Bertelsmann will become an even stronger partner of choice for all creative professionals in Germany.

“This step also strengthens our position in the competition with the US technology platforms.”

Julia Jäkel

Rabe also praises Jäkel for her coming leadership of the Content Alliance, saying, “Julia combines creativity and entrepreneurship and, together with her fellow board members, will lend additional momentum to Bertelsmann’s content businesses.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, some of the tech platforms Rabe may have in mind, have made moves of their own in the direction of Bertelsmann’s Content Alliance. Amazon Publishing, for example, has created an imprint, Topple Books, in a cooperative arrangement with Amazon Studios filmmaker Jill Soloway’s production company, Topple.

In Indonesia, Wattpad Studios—the publishing arm of which, Wattpad Books, has just been announced—has entered a partnership for small-screen development with the Asian streamer iflix.

And as the “streamers”—such services as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and iflix—develop and churn content, it can be expected that publishers will find themselves in more liaisons with studios and production players.

As of today’s announcement, Bertelsmann has 119,000 employees and and has generated revenues of €17.2 billion (US$19.7 billion) in the 2017 financial year.


More from Publishing Perspectives on books to film is here, more on Bertelsmann is here, and more on the German market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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